The Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad terror group vowed Friday to retaliate against Israel for a series of IDF air strikes targeting the cell Israel says was responsible for firing four rockets into northern Israel from Syria on Thursday.
Israel said that the Islamic Jihad, which operates mostly out of the Gaza Strip, but whose headquarters are in Damascus, carried out the attack, with Iranian direction and Syrian complicity.
Islamic Jihad spokesman Daud Shihab reiterated the Palestinian terror group’s denial that it was responsible for the rocket fire, claiming Israel was looking for an excuse to attack Syria, and vowed retaliation.
“We’ll know when to respond to an Israeli attack — and that will be where the Iron Dome was installed yesterday,” he said, referring to Israeli missile defense systems deployed in the southern cities of Ashdod and Beersheba on Thursday.
Israel’s Walla News website on Friday quoted the pro-Iran Al Mayadeen television station as saying that at least three of the six casualities in the IDF strikes were Palestinian.
Muhammad al-Hindi, a member of Islamic Jihad’s political bureau, said he was unaware of any causalities from the group in Syria, but if true, “the movement will know how to protect its sons.”
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Friday’s raid targeted and hit the Islamic Jihad militants who carried out Thursday’s rocket attack.
According to an IDF source, Israeli planes carried out a raid targeting a vehicle “in which there were at least five people.”
“We were monitoring this cell and it was attacked some 10-15 kilometers from the border, on territory firmly in the control of the Syrian military. This is an Islamic Jihad cell directed by Iran,” the source added.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that despite the strike, Israel had no interest in an escalation.
“We have no intention of ratcheting up this confrontation, but our policy [of retaliating for attacks against Israeli civilians] remains as it was,” he said.
Ya’alon said the strike against the cell was proof that Israel will not tolerate efforts to harm the security of its citizens.
“We have no intention of compromising on this issue, and I suggest no one test our resolve on this matter,” he said in a brief statement after the attack.
Syrian state television meanwhile said six unarmed civilians were killed and seven wounded in the strike on a vehicle some 10 kilometers from the Syrian-Israeli border, in territory held by the Syrian army.
It said an Israeli drone strike targeted a “civilian car” close to a busy market in the village of Kom. Ahmad Sheikh Abdul-Qader, governor of the southern region of Quneitra, said the attack happened on the road leading to the village of Khan Arnabeh, near Kom, and destroyed the car.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the country’s war, said five people killed in the Israeli strike were members of pro-government National Defense Forces. It did not elaborate.